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Amazon isn't the only one with interesting ideas about final mile delivery, and the Tech Association delivers too.

COURTESY: CAMBRIDGE CONSULTANTS - A DelivAir drone drops a package to a customer who signalled it in with the flashlight on his phone. The concept-stage product is only a little more outlandish that Amazon's plan to drop packages in peoples car trunks using OnStar.

Amazon announced last week it was opening interactive Amazon Experience Centers or Alexa-enabled smart homes across the U.S.

"Customers can simply ask Alexa to control the television, lights, thermostat, shades and more...Customers can experience just how easy it can be to reorder household essentials with a press of an Amazon Dash Button, listen or watch Prime content with Fire TV or schedule on-demand home services through Amazon Home Services."

Working with the homebuilder Lennar, Amazon is offering "a real home setting (where) customers can experience how Alexa, Prime and Amazon services come together to help them."

Tech companies have been promising to automate the home since Bill Gates's 1995 book "The Road Ahead" in which millionaires could attach a wi-fi brooch when they got home, which would tell the house what do to. Then their preferred art, music and temperature would follow them from room to room.

The Amazon Experience Centers are now open in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C.

Whether that suite of stale ideas works depends on execution. But Amazon alhas a new idea, which is so weird it might just work. It certainly sounds like there must be some research behind it. Using the Amazon Key app, Amazon delivery people can now leave packages in a customer's car trunk.

Any 2015 model-year or newer cars from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Volvo can be opened by the delivery person via On Call or OnStar.

It makes sense, since cars, like phones, are almost always with us. We're in and out of them all day. And don't we all know the road rage of having to stop at an Amazon locker or pick-up center for a package after work because it is more convenient than having it left on our stoop?

Then I heard about a more outlandish idea. A company called Synapse Product Development is working on DelivAir drone technology. According to a release, their drone locates you through GPS and then hones in on you with 3D imaging.

"When the drone reaches the recipient, they simply point their mobile phone flash LED to the sky which blinks a coded pattern, allowing the drone to verify that it is delivering to the correct person."

The video shows a yuppie leaving the office on his bike, hurrying to the theater by bike across the British countryside. He gets a flat tire which will make him late so he calls in a DelivAir order: 1. Good luck flowers for his actress girlfriend. 2. A new innertube and tools so he can fix his bike on the spot, and 3. A hot bean burrito which follows him to the theatre and arrives with five minutes until curtain — presumably so he can scarf it down in the lobby.

As DelivAir explains, the drone picks up the flashing pattern of the phone's LED. This is a bit like how Lyft assigns you a color for your ride, which matches the light on the driver's dashboard, so you don't get 50 people coming out of the Crystal Ballroom '80s night at once and getting into each other's rideshares.

Even less plausible than the idea of anywhere in Britain being able to provide an edible, hot burrito in a timely fashion is the scene of a perfect white box being lowered into someone's hands, The guy unhooks it and sends the drone on its way home.

Nonetheless, it's ideas like this that are inspiring. I had a friend who, back in the age of cellphones with tiny screens, figured out a way a football stadium crowd could play a video game on the jumbotron by crowdsourcing their responses. It never caught on, but it wasn't much different than people waving their flashlight phones at a concert.

• • •

The 2018 Oregon Tech Awards was held at the Oregon Convention Center last Thursday. The fact that Skip Newberry and his crew could find 630 people willing to sit though hours of speeches said a lot about how his leadership has come on strong at TAO.

Angela Jackson, a partner at the Portland Seed Fund and head of the Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Accelerator, was given the Tech Champion Award. Cue long video of people saying how awesome she is. And well deserved it was too. PDX Women in Tech also got a timely shout out for the force it has become.

The Technology Executive of the Year Award is now the Sam Blackman Award, and the winner, as noted in these pages last week, was Smarsh founder and CEO Stephen Marsh. Marsh gave a speech in which he thanked his parents for always making him work for his allowance in New Jersey as a kid, his friend and fixer Ken Anderson, and of course his wife.

Much of the evening was given over to showing Portland's tech world has some of Silicon Valley's strengths (innovation, capital) but not its weakness (bro culture). The buzzwords were inclusion and equity.

Vailey Oehlke, director of Multnomah County Library and former president of the Public Library Association, gave a very long keynote address about the Digital Inclusion Network (DIN), which fights "digital equity barriers." A video showed women in headscarves learning to use a computer, and kids of color coding cheap robots. The message was think about your privilege as you go, rather than later when you've made your pile of cash.

The best speech of the night was given by Sam Blackman's former assistant of five years, Emily Barret. Speaking without notes or apparent nerves, it was a heartfelt tribute to a good guy who happened to be straight, white and cisgender. Without using any jargon, she seemed to speak for everyone.

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Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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